Trump pardons former Google self-driving car engineer

Joanna Estrada
January 21, 2021

NEW YORK (AP) - President Donald Trump pardoned a former Google engineer who was sentenced to prison a year ago for stealing trade secrets from the tech giant related to robotic vehicles. Levandowski was a year ago sentenced to 18 months in prison after pleading guilty to stealing trade secrets from Google that he then used to help Uber in the self-driving race.

Levandowski had not started his sentence because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Levandowski stole driverless vehicle technology secrets from Google, where he helped spearhead research into autonomous vehicles, and smuggled them to Uber via his autonomous-trucks startup, Otto. Another was that it was yet another twist in a legal saga that went on for years - in addition to the federal conviction, Google's self-driving arm, Waymo, at one point sued Uber in a messy legal case before reaching a settlement. This was not small. "This was massive in scale". "Mr. Levandowski pled guilty to a single criminal count arising from civil litigation", a White House press release said.

The White House said Levandowski had "paid a significant price for his actions and plans to devote his talents to advance the public good".

Levandowski transferred more than 14,000 Google files, including development schedules and product designs, to his personal laptop before he left, and while negotiating a deal with Uber, where he briefly led its self-driving vehicle unit.

Levandowski still owes $179 million to Alphabet as part of an arbitrated contract dispute that was settled last March, and that's not going away.

Levandowski, who filed for bankruptcy on March 4 to negotiate his debts, also agreed to pay almost $756,500 (roughly Rs. 5.5 crores) in restitution to cover costs Alphabet bore assisting the government's investigation, according to court papers. President Donald Trump has pardoned Levandowski, who plead guilty to stealing trade secrets before joining Uber's effort to build robotic vehicles for its ride-hailing service.

And then there were a slew of pardons for shady businessmen who were rightfully convicted for shady dealings, including California businessman Elliott Broidy, a Trump fundraiser who pleaded guilty in a foreign lobbying case; and Florida eye doctor Dr. Salomon E. Melgen who was convicted in 2018 of fraudulently billing Medicare and performing unnecessary procedures on hundreds of elderly patients.

Other reports by Click Lancashire

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